Super Bowl Sundays
I started with that series of commercials because I think it shows the impact advertising, media and technology has on our culture as a whole. And as a consequence, on each of us as Christians trying to live like Jesus taught in a world and Society who has either forgotten about or never heard of Jesus.
Commercials, and especially the Super Bowl commercials, have a profound impact on our lives. In talking about favorite commercials, nearly everyone talked about the Volkswagen Mini-Darth Vader commercial from last year. It went viral and as of Friday has had over 50 million views.
It was a very effective ad, too. According to reports in December, sales of the Passat more than doubled for the year to nearly 23,000 for the year.
Everyone loved the ad because while it wasn’t life changing, it was very heartwarming; we all want to have that kind of relationship with our kids. We all want to have those moments or set up those once in a lifetime memorable moments with and for our children.
Everyone was anticipating the Volkswagen commercial that would air in this year’s Super Bowl and so they created the “Star Wars Dog Teaser” titled “The Bark Side” and began what they call “seeding” the market. Or building our anticipation by picking up and building upon the theme. At first everyone was disappointed because there were no references to Star Wars or Darth Vader. The teaser seemed like a bust. It wasn’t the droids, I mean commercial we were looking for,” until the last few seconds and then we all saw the connection. And that was the clincher. And now, no matter how hard we try, Star Wars and Darth Vader will always be associated with Volkswagen and vice-versa.
It was marketing genius. At 3.5 million dollars for a 30 second slot, plus the cost of creating the commercial, everyone took a major risk. Star Wars is one of those iconic epics which has been closely guarded by George Lucas. To let another company or image like Volkswagen into his well crafted universe was huge. It could have been disastrous for all the franchises involved.
But it paid off because they did their homework, they told a simple story that we could all relate to and they touched a nerve. It impacted us emotionally, socially and psychologically. And that’s why it’s good for us to pause every now and then and look at how Christ and Culture meet and complement each other. How God, through prevenient grace, reaches out through modern culture to speak to us, even if culture doesn’t know it’s being used. And how culture often clashes with what Jesus taught.
For the last few years I have titled this sermon “Leap of Faith” because sometimes it takes a giant leap of faith to trust and see the presence of God or the message of Christ in the commercials. But God always provides, even when the pickings are slim.
The passage for this morning is a single verse from the Gospel of John. John 8:12 (NRSV)
 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Today I hope we can see how the light of Christ can be seen in and through the advertising industry. Or how Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can help strengthen us in our journey of faith so we don’t succumb to the manipulations and temptations which the advertising industry places so appealingly before us every 11 to 12 minutes of broadcast time.
But before we go any further though, let’s pray.
A. One of the major elements of all advertising is Temptation. Temptation is about luring us or leading us into doing something that we know is wrong or something we know we shouldn’t do in order to satisfy a hunger or a need or a desire. Temptation plays on our vanity as well as our insecurities promising to fill the one and make the other go away. Temptation tells us not to worry it’s OK; we won’t get caught or it doesn’t make any difference. Temptation tells us that there won’t be any consequences to our actions.
A lot of advertising is based upon the concept of temptation, especially beer and car or truck commercials. And they market them to specific generations and demographics. See if you can figure out which generation or demographic these are directed at. WATCH
The Sonic is definitely directed at the Extreme Sports Crowd. I’m not sure whether the Audi commercial is directed at the fans of the Twilight series or the parents and grandparents who think it’s sort of stupid and would love to see all the vampires wiped out. The Honda CRV commercial is definitely directed at those parents for which the movie Ferris Beuhler was a part of their life. And the Chevy Apocalypse Commercial was aimed at guys.
All of the ads imply that if you purchase a particular vehicle you will somehow become as cool as the models and actors in the commercials. Unfortunately, there are people who never even consider that they might susceptible to the influences of commercials. Scripture reminds us that we are all tested and tempted at times, even Jesus was tempted. But when we are tempted we have God on our side.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NRSV), the apostle Paul writes: “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
B. Now, not all the commercials dealing with Temptation are bad. Some of them actually remind us that giving into temptation has consequences. WATCH
I loved the Doritos commercial and theologically it reminds us that once you sin, once you give into temptation you really can’t take it back, you’re caught in this trap of doing it over and over again.
The Veloster Turbo commercial from Hyundai reminds us that Temptation, no matter how good it sounds or how good it feels or how good it makes you feel, it eventually will turn on you. The purpose of temptation isn’t to make you feel good or get what you want, the whole purpose of temptation is to lead you away from God and disrupt your relationships with everyone else.
The Pepsi Max commercial shows us that no matter how careful you are, especially when giving in to temptation, there will always be consequences. We will eventually get caught. Or it will have negative effects on our marriage, our job, our friendships, our self-esteem, our relationship with our children, you name it. Giving in to temptation or “Sin” as we call it in the church, is the great divider. It alienates us from God. It alienates us from each other and even alienates us from our true selves, the image of God in which we were created.
A perfect example of this is one of the commercials I’m not going to show and that’s the David Beckham underwear commercial. There was nothing really wrong with it. Sports figures have been doing underwear commercials for years. The problem was boundaries. Beckham discovered too late that he had crossed a boundary he really didn’t want to cross. And simply doing the commercial hurt some of the people he loved the most, his children.
When they saw the commercial they immediately turned and asked, “Why are you naked, Daddy?” It turns out that the commercial embarrassed the fool out of his kids. Because of that, Beckham said he would never do anything like that again. It wasn’t worth it.
I don’t know the inner workings of David Beckham’s mind or soul but if he’s anything like the rest of us, disappointing you children, especially when your integrity is marred with them, is painful in a soul wrenching way, even if you have been forgiven. We carry that guilt with us. But there is a way to overcome temptation. There is a way to get rid of and redeem that guilt. There is a way to be forgiven. And that’s Jesus. The author of Hebrews writes this:
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NRSV) “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The world says we’re not strong enough to overcome temptation, Jesus says: Wrong, I will be with you. My strength will help you. And should you turn away and fail, I will pick you up and I will forgive you.
II. GOOD NEWS:
A. Lest you think that all the commercials this year had horrible messages, there were two that stood out for me as having extremely good messages. Both commercials were filled with Biblical and theological truth, whether they realized or intended it or not. The first one is the Chrysler Commercial starring Clint Eastwood. WATCH
I don’t care about all the hoo-ha that’s been raised by all the political pundits on both sides about this commercial. I believe it has a great message of encouragement for all of us and reminds us who we are as a country. It was great halftime speech. It was reminiscent of Jesus teaching and preparing the disciples for the events of his arrest and crucifixion. That was a halftime speech. He had to remind them that it wasn’t an end of game speech consoling them for their loss.
And He had to remind them because it would feel like a loss to them. They would feel lost until after the resurrection. Jesus told the disciples not to lose hope and to remember all that he taught them.
John 14:19-20 (NRSV) “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
He told them not to be afraid. He told them they had seen Him do great things but then said they would do even greater things. He got them ready for the second half. And he gave them and us a game plan for living in this second half; this time between His first coming and his second coming.
In John 15:4-5 (NRSV) Jesus said:
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Jesus goes on to say: John 15:16-18 (NRSV) “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last . . . I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
He also said he would not leave us orphaned. He was sending us the Counselor or the Holy Spirit, His presence with us, God’s presence with us guiding us, leading us, reminding us what Jesus taught, reminding us whose we are, reminding us of God’s promises and encouraging us in all areas of our lives, sort of like this commercial.
B. We are not alone. That’s the Good News. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Counselor, whatever you call the presence of the risen Christ in our lives, He reminds us that we have a “great crowd of witnesses,” as Hebrews says, the saints who have gone before us to cheer us on; to encourage us; to pick up our spirits and help keep us going. Though unseen, they surround us every single day and encourage us in every way.
James 1:17 reminds us that Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
There is no more perfect gift that you can give to God or another human being than unselfishly standing up for what it right and good and holy. We are striving to live as Jesus taught. We are seeking to become disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.
We ARE and always have been walking billboards, living advertisements for both Jesus and the church. What kind of commercial for Jesus are you living? I think that’s really the challenge. What kind of light are you?
Advertising is an incredibly effective tool for any business, especially the business of God’s Kingdom. Be the best billboard, the best commercial, the best advertisement for Jesus that you can possibly be. Let the Light of Christ, who is the light of the world shine in you and through you.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.